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Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

NET  Luke 23:32-43

            Two other criminals were also led away to be executed with him. 33 So when they came to the place that is called “The Skull,” they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Then they threw dice to divide his clothes. 35 The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the king of the Jews.” 39                    

            One of the criminals who were hanging there railed at him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”   

NET  Luke 23:32-43

            Two other criminals were also led away to be executed with him. 33 So when they came to the place that is called “The Skull,” they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. 34 But Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Then they threw dice to divide his clothes. 35 The people also stood there watching, but the rulers ridiculed him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the king of the Jews.”

39  One of the criminals who were hanging there railed at him, saying, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we rightly so, for we are getting what we deserve for what we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom.” 43 And Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”  

           What do you think of when you think of paradise?  For many people, the word paradise brings about visions of days like today, 75 degrees, light breeze, sun shining, with maybe the addition of palm trees, crystal blue water and white sand.       

          For me, the word paradise evokes visions of majestic mountains and tall pine trees under a thick blanket of pure white snow. When I’m having a bad day or I just need a moment to escape, I close my eyes and go to my winter paradise.  Sometimes it’s Alpine Meadows or Whistler, perhaps it’s Steamboat Springs or Jackson Hole.  But where ever my paradise is, there’s always snow and I’m always wearing skis. 

          One of my favorite things in paradise is riding the chair lift, gliding up through the silent snow-laden trees; the only sound is the gentle whisper of snowflakes as they kiss my jacket and the squeak, squeak of the lift cables. I close my eyes and listen.  I can feel the Holy Spirit all around me and I pray, God, who am I to enjoy such beauty and peace? Who am I to exist in your paradise? 

          I never go there alone. My husband is always there with me; for what’s paradise without someone you love to share it with?

          I find it interesting that the Bible begins and ends with detailed descriptions of paradise.  In Genesis we have the Garden of Eden, resplendent in all forms of fruit and flower; the original paradise on earth.  Then at the end of the Bible in Revelations we have a detailed description of the kingdom of God complete with pearly gates and streets of gold.  But today, on Good Friday,  we hear about paradise in the middle of the bible, in a conversation between three men. 

          All three of these men were accused of crimes punishable by crucifixion.   They were all three, no doubt, in extreme pain; especially the man in the middle; Jesus the Christ, who had the added pain of being beaten, nailed through his hands and wearing a crown of thorns.

          Crucifixion, by nature, is a slow and painful death; the weight of your body pulls on your arms and shoulders preventing your ribcage from properly expanding.  In order to inhale you must pull yourself up with your arms.  As exhaustion sets in each breath becomes more and more difficult until finally you cannot pull yourself up to inhale and you suffocate.  Needless to say, having a conversation while hanging on a cross is no easy task. 

          The crucified bodies were often left up on the crosses long after death creating a gruesome sight along the road.  Placards hung above them to identify their crimes.  It stood as a warning for all who gazed upon their dangling corpses “Don’t Do This.”   We are all familiar with the sign hung above Jesus, “This is the king of the Jews.”  After all, that is what the people had called him.  And when the Roman official, Pontius Pilate asked him about this title, he replied “Yes, it is as you say.” 

          But we tend to think of “King of the Jews” as an honorable title, don’t we? For Jesus was the King of the Jews.  But this sign did not proclaim his true kingship, but was instead meant to mock him.  He was accused of being a “king poser,” a royal imposter.  This was a serious crime; a crime punishable by crucifixion.  Herod was the king of Judea, so the imposter had to be removed.  

         

          The crowd stood by and watched as the rulers mocked him. “Save yourself if you are the Christ!”  After the soldiers nailed him to the cross they offered him sour wine as a joke.  And then they threw dice to divide up his clothing.  Could this be a fulfillment of prophecy?  Let me read to you from Psalm 22, a lament of  King David written some 1000 years before Jesus was even born….

“The roof of my mouth is as dry as a piece of pottery; my tongue sticks to my gums. You set me in the dust of death.  16 A gang of evil men crowd around me; they pin my hands and feet.  17 My enemies are gloating over me in triumph.   18 They are dividing up my clothes among themselves; they are rolling dice for my garments.   (Psalm 22:14-18 NET).

        

         It amazes me that a prophecy, written 1000 years earlier, could be so accurate to even the tiniest detail!  “They are rolling dice for my garments.”  But Jesus knew that many more prophecies must be fulfilled.  He knew the pain that he must endure.  He knew that before he could see the resurrection dawn he must first suffer the sins of all humanity.  Jesus knew that today was the day that he must die on the cross.

          Scripture tells us that the people stood there watching.   Who was there and what did they see?  Did they look on in horror from a distance or join in the ridicule.  And, what about his followers?  His beloved disciples?  His mother?  Were they there? Watching, mourning, praying for a miracle?  Did they run and hide or simply avert their eyes, unwilling to look at the face of their teacher, their Lord, streaked with tears and blood and filled with agony. 

          What would you have done if you were there?  Remember the old spiritual: “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?” 

          The soldiers and the leaders had made a spectacle of him.  They humiliated him and hurled insults at him.  Can you imagine?  Our beloved savior betrayed, whipped, beaten, broken, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, arms outstretched, suffering and dying; all by their hands; all by their ignorance. And yet, in his compassion, he forgave them.

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”

          Such love, such grace, such compassion, is beyond our comprehension.  Such love can only be divine love.  For what human being, besides the Son of Man, could forgive his accusers, forgive his tormentors, forgive his executioners.  Only Christ the Redeemer could forgive them for their ignorance. 

          Three times in this passage we hear the command “Save yourself”.  It gnaws at us because we know that Jesus could have saved himself.  He had the power! How many miracles had he performed?   How many afflictions had he cured?  How many dead had he raised?     He was innocent of this crime, so surely he was justified in saving himself!  Why did he have to suffer and die like a criminal on a cross?

          As Christ hung there between the two thieves, a brief conversation emerged.  Despite their agony, one of them hurled insults at the man in the middle. He challenged him “Are you not the Messiah?* Save yourself and us!” Jesus was certainly the Christ, and yes, he had the power to save all three of them.  But what would that have accomplished? 

           It was his final trial, his final temptation.  He had a choice; to save himself or to die on the cross.  But Jesus knew that to step down from that cross would gain nothing for the kingdom of God.  Jesus knew that his work was not yet complete.  Jesus knew that only through his death and his resurrection could humanity be saved.  

          Then the other thief asked him ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? We indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’  What a contrast!  This thief was a God-fearing man who without hesitation confessed his quilt, accepted his sentence and proclaimed Christ’s innocence. Then he turned his attention to the man in the middle and made a very humble and sincere request.  He said;

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

          With this simple request he proclaims Jesus as King, the one who would reign in the kingdom of heaven forever.  And all he asked was for Jesus to remember him.  He didn’t ask for forgiveness or everlasting life.  He didn’t ask to be saved or even freed of his pain. All he asked was for Jesus to remember him.

          How many times have we asked God to save us?  How many times have we prayed for Jesus to bail us out?  To make our problems go away, to make our pain go away, to give us just one more chance? And what gives us the right to even ask?  We are no more worthy than criminals — sinners, all of us, unworthy of God’s attention, let alone forgiveness!  If only we could be humble.  If only we could be satisfied if Jesus would just remember us!

          Jesus had no obligation to this man but he responded to his request anyway.  In his pain, it would have been easier to just say “okay”.  But Jesus did more than offer comforting words to the man. Jesus made the most outrageous, the most unbelievable, the most gracious promise to this man.  He promised him more than remembrance, he promised him salvation.         

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

          In agonizing pain and on the brink of death, Jesus found the strength to offer this man, to offer us, a place in paradise.   Not tomorrow, not in three days, but TODAY!  How ironic; that in his pain, in his present Hell, Jesus would speak of paradise!   But Christ knew that his ministry on earth was for only a short while and that his suffering would be brief.  Christ knew that his heavenly Father awaited his return in paradise. 

          But the amazing part is this; even though we are unworthy, he has invited us too!  And guess what?  We will not be there alone, but we will be in paradise with Jesus the Christ, our own personal redeemer!  Can we imagine anything so wonderful?  To spend eternity in paradise with someone who loves us that much? With someone who would voluntarily suffer at the hand of man and die for our sins!

          Brothers and sisters, we must NEVER FORGET  that Jesus could have saved himself! He could have come down from that cross and walked away.  But he chose to see his mission through.  He chose to redeem mankind. He chose death on a cross so that we may live in paradise!

         Imagine our Lord and savior, nailed to the cross, with his arms outstretched, in a posture of acceptance; accepting the sins of the world, accepting and forgiving his tormentors,   accepting and forgiving us! 

 

          Imagine, his outstretched arms beaconing us to come into his loving embrace!  

          Imagine, a God so full of compassion and love for us that he would WANT to spend eternity with us!   Imagine that! After all we’ve done…. He Want Us!   Listen brothers and sisters, to his incredible promise…

“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Amen.

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April 3, 2010 at 8:22 pm 1 comment

Okay…I’m still here.

Hello Blog!

It’s been a while! But 2010 has been a rough year (so far).

     Death

          Disappointment

               Destruction

          I’ve lost loved ones and I’ve lost the ability to trust some loved ones and I’ve lost the respect of other loved ones. I’m no longer moving from project to project, or day to day, but instead I am moving from crisis to crisis. I’ve spent so much of my personal energy tending to others and dealing with stuff and just-getting-by that I feel like I’ve lost my identity. I can’t control ANYTHING and sometimes I feel so empty inside, like I’m not really here anymore. I’m not being selfish or self-pitying or a moaner. But there are just SO MANY THINGS that I cannot change or fix or even address.

But…..

          Three days a week I escape to seminary. The hour long drive is think-time. I mull over my problems and plan my next move. Then I walk through the doors of Valentine Hall and leave it on the sidewalk outside (well, not always). I morph into student-mode and explore the Scriptures and learn from my classmates and professors. It is such a welcome and needed escape. Then I get in my “green bean” (my green little Prius) and start the drive home, feeling refreshed.

          I know that sounds too simple. But while I’m there I am constantly reminded that God loves me. I am constantly reminded that I am not alone. I am constantly reminded that I can trust God and that God will never leave me. And, even if for just a little while, I can give it all up to God who is ultimately in control.

          I don’t know how I could do it without God.  God has blessed me with a loving, trusting and supportive husband. My family and friends are concerned and compassionate and patient (oh so patient). And my classmates inspire me to keep-at-it.

Okay. I’m still here.

I’m just a little overwhelmed right now. But with God’s help….

Cause me to hear

Your loving-kindness in the morning,

for on You do I lean

and in You do I trust.

Cause me to know the way

wherein I should walk,

for I lift up my inner self to You.

Psalm 143: 8

March 11, 2010 at 7:37 pm 2 comments

Intro to Preaching

I am utterly astounded. 

This past Tuesday our preaching class started our first round of sermons.  Each week 7 classmates will get in the pulpit of the chapel and preach–many for the first time ever.  We have some restrictions on our sermons; gospel selection, time restraints, confined to the puplit, etc.  Our fellow classmates will critique our sermons and our delivery. 

I was expecting to hear some great sermons and some not-so-great sermons on this first round.  But I am utterly astounded at the confidence and professional delivery I witnessed from even the first-timers!  Not to mention some engaging sermon material, a couple of chuckles, some great personal stories and 7 unique pulpit personalities.  I can easily imagine each and every one of these promising preachers leading their own flocks.

Congratulations Seminarians!  You did a great job!

These will be some tough acts to follow! 

 

November 20, 2009 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

Prophet Soup

I hate P-Soup! 

Not really.  There isn’t a soup I hate (except maybe borscht).  But right now my brain is swimming with prophets; visions, laments, temples being torn down and people being plucked up, winged creatures that burn lips with red-hot coals, baskets of fruit and plumblines.  Pre-exilic, exilic and post-exilic. Northern Kingdom or Southern Kingdom. So much of the same thing said in so many different ways.  How does one keep them straight!  Well, obviously I’m not there yet.  I just took my “Prophets” exam and I think I just failed my first test…as in, I have never failed a test before, but this one, maybe.  I filled my brain bucket and it all just sloshed around in there and I tried to dump it on the test and it just came out like soup.

But in that soup pot are 3 nice meaty nuggets….

  • God hates ritual without righteousness.  (speaks for itself).  Read Amos.
  • Aand what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
  • God is loving and benevolent and forgiving and God wants YOU in relationship. Read 2nd Isaiah (try chapter 55).

 But other than that, all is going well.  I am struggling towards my final in NT Greek next week.  There again, I just hope to pass.  I am enjoying the preaching class and look forward to future classes with all of my professors.  Which reminds me….

Time to register for Spring classes already!

November 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm Leave a comment

Greek Midterm….ARGH!!!

 

 “Greek Verb Paradigm”

(Words by N. Clayton Croy. Tune = “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio)  

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of Greek,

I take a look at my life and see it’s rather bleak.

’Cause I’ve been learnin’ and crammin’ so long;

So when I do my parsin’ I won’t do it wrong.

The Greek verb system, it’s got so many forms.

They’re buzzing in my brain, like bees in swarms.

But I’ve been studyin’ every day and every night.

I gotta get the endings down and get them down right.

My social life is sufferin’, as any fool can see.

My nose is in a book. It’s just reality.

I gotta pass the midterm, and there ain’t no other way

Than studyin’ from the break of dawn until the end of day.

  

I’ve been spending all my time

Trying to learn the Greek verb paradigm. (Repeat 4×)

  

My homies come around saying, “Hey, where you been?”

“We come by your place, but you’re never in.”

I have to say to them, “I been in my study carrel.”

“If I don’t learn this paradigm, my life’s in peril.”

So late in the evening, I’m in the library

Beneath a pile of books under which I’ve been buried.

My friendships are dying. Don’t have no time to play.

I spend every waking moment with the Koine.

The way things are goin’ my life is ill-starred.

My best companions are my vocab cards.

But I got one friend with whom I can tarry.

The Greek tutor and I, we’re gonna marry.

  

Tell me why of late — is it my fate

To do nothing more — than conjugate?

  

I’ve been spending all my time

Trying to learn the Greek verb paradigm. (Repeat 4×)

 

 

October 14, 2009 at 8:40 am 1 comment

Content

I was restless for years.

Oh, I got plenty of sleep. But I always sensed there was something else I was supposed to be doing. My life, my job, my family, my involvement in church–were all very satisfying and fulfilling. But there was still this unutilized piece of me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on…An incompleteness.  A restlessness I couldn’t justify, let alone describe.

But Now….

At this very moment I am feeling so complete! I am loving seminary…And it’s not just that. Life goes on and for some very odd reason it is so satisfying right now. I can only describe it as being where I need to be right now…at the right place at the right time. I’ve never been this busy, not even when I was working 50 hours a week with 2 small kids at home. But somehow it all seems so managable now. My house is an absolute wreck. Do I care? Only a little. So if I haven’t invited you over for a while it’s because our house is only fit for us slobs right now. Besides you would only be distracted by the uncontrollable urge to pick up toys or load the dishwasher. And that wouldn’t be very relaxing fellowship, now would it?

School is overwhelming…

But in a good way. Some evenings I have hundreds of pages to read, but at least it’s reading I enjoy. Lots of papers to write, lots of tests to study for. I am finding that almost every instructor thinks their class is our only class…things haven’t changed much since I was in college the first time. That is, except my Greek professor who is so understanding. He just wants us to learn and pass so we can move on to New Testament…how refreshing! So when I found that he wasn’t a squeaky wheel I started slacking in his class. And then what I thought I understood was not sticking…someone in the class said their brains were turning to teflon and everything was just sliding right off. We have a mid-term coming up next week and I’m struggling to remember what we learned a month ago. SO…I had this awesome idea to attend the morning Greek class as well (I have a free period). They are about 2-3 lessons behind our afternoon class, so it’s all review for me. AND IT WORKED! I think I’ll attend that class as often as possible, just to keep refreshed.

Work is insane right now…

It is what we used to call “Cider Season”. That means apples are in so we are not only pressing juice every day, and making apple butter every day….but the preserves and jellies and bbq sauce and pumpkin butter are selling faster than we can make them too! Then just this Friday our cider press foreman (his name is actually Foreman, coinkidink) was in an awful auto accident and broke his leg! It will be tough keeping things going without him. Fortunately there are others to cover for him, but it’s gonna be tight! BUT…praise the Lord our God and Saviour that he wasn’t hurt any worse than that! It’s times like these that I am also thankful that we provide short and long term disability to our employees as a perk. He has 3 kids to feed!

Things are just honky-dory right now…

As long as I don’t get sick. But you know how it goes….just like enjoying the splendor of the blue sky and fluffy clouds when a bird craps in your eye! So, I’ll keep my goggles on, get a flu shot, take my vitamins, read whenever possible…and every now and then

 Come Up For Air!

Hopefully when the inevitable disaster comes along I’ll be able to handle it.

Keep breathing friends. And remember, the sun will come up tomorrow morning (God willing) despite what you did or didn’t do today.

October 11, 2009 at 1:58 pm 1 comment

Blog entry coming soon!

Sorry I’ve been so blog-negligent lately.

Between school, work and home I barely have time to think! But my schedule is starting to find a rhythm and I’m learning to delegate, so things so should be under control soon.

In short, I’m loving seminary. I feel like I’m at the right place at the right time. I find it engaging and challenging. More on that later.

Work has been okay lately. Thanks to my neice Meghan who has been a huge help to me. She attended a trade show for me and has helped me with our Christmas catalog. Now she is setting up the mall store for us and will manage it through the holidays.

I am truly blessed!

My son Preston graduated from tech school last week and is now looking for a job in the HVAC field. I pray he can find a steady job.

So, hang with me friends! I will be back online again soon with stories of my joys and frustrations!

Thanks for checking in!

October 4, 2009 at 11:11 pm Leave a comment

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